The 2014 college football season won't kick off for another seven weeks, but the past four days gave the Oregon Ducks plenty of reason to anticipate 2015.
Dozens of the nation's top 2015 recruits converged in the Ducks' backyard—Beaverton, Oregon—for The Opening 2014. The Nike-hosted event featured several top Oregon targets, as well as some recruits already committed to head coach Mark Helfrich's 2015 class.
The latest addition to Oregon's 2015 recruiting class, 4-star quarterback Travis Waller, might remind Ducks fans of a very familiar face: current star quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Waller's shown off his abilities before The Opening. he had a monster junior season for Southern California prep powerhouse Anaheim Servite and impressed in various camps during the offseason. Still, he said he saw noticeable improvement in his play in just a few sessions at The Opening, per The Oregonian: "Something I never thought I'd do is just go through those progressions. My footwork from when I got here to how I am now is night and day. They've taught me so much in two days."
Waller finished third in the Elite 11 and earned All-Tournament recognition.
Running back Taj Griffin might hail from Powder Springs, Georgia, but don't say he has SEC speed. The 4-star prospect from McEachern High School showed off his Oregon speed, clocking in with a 4.31-second 40-yard dash. Only Miami commit Jordan Scarlett at 4.30 was faster.
Griffin was a SPARQ finalist and seventh overall with a 136.56 score, per StudentSports.com.
By committing to Oregon, Griffin spurned such suitors as Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and Georgia. As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee writes, the SEC will regret letting this local product go to the West Coast.
A Texas 2-Step in Oregon's 2015
Helfrich and Co. may not be done with their big-time running back targets in this signing class. Oregon remains in the hunt for Plano, Texas, 4-star prospect Soso Jamabo.
At 6'3", 210 pounds, Jamabo could be the perfect thunder complement to Griffin's lightning. The combination would have the Pac-12's defensive coordinators reaching for Aspirin for years to come.
Jamabo earned All-Offense honors.
Cowart Sets His Priorities
Byron Cowart is among the top defensive end prospects in the country, a 5-star standout capable of stepping into a team's rotation immediately. Football programs want to sign the Seffner, Florida, prospect, but Cowart told Erik C. Anderson of The Oregonian his priorities in choosing a university are off the field.
I'm not going anywhere for football. When it's time for football, it will take care of itself...That Nike platform is crazy, it's big. I just want to see how big it is. That's why I'm interested in Oregon..If I did go to Oregon I could come [to Nike]. My biggest thing is interning, not even for credit-wise. Just for experience... You need experience.
As for Cowart's on-field performance, he lived up to his lofty billing by winning defensive line one-on-one Most Valuable Player.
Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores unless otherwise noted.